Scarborough planners, Marden's put store redesign, permit process on fast track

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SCARBOROUGH — Marden’s Surplus & Salvage will accelerate a redesign process for the vacant Wal-Mart building on Payne Road, hoping to convince the Planning Board to give site plan approval at its next meeting so the Maine retailer can open in October.

Planning Board members, in response, were receptive at a meeting Monday to the idea of phased-in improvements to the 119,000-square-foot building and 22-acre property, making the company’s target of a pre-holiday season opening feasible for its 15th store.

But they also made it clear they would not abandon their design standards. Marden’s will have just three weeks to develop detailed plans and a schedule for their execution before it must present them to the board on Sept. 21.

Asked if he was encouraged by the board’s reaction, Marden’s General Manager Paul LePage said, “They just say what they have to say. They can’t say ‘we don’t want you,’ but they can make it very difficult the next round; it could be never-ending.”

Even so, LePage said Tuesday that Marden’s intends to pursue the Scarborough location.

Marden’s hired Nancy St. Clair of Sebago Technics when it first learned of the requirements stipulated for the old Wal-Mart property in 2005 – requirements that include aesthetic improvements to the building’s exterior, creation of a right-turn lane from northbound Payne Road into the Wal-Mart parking lot, a sidewalk that would connect with those in the new Scarborough Gallery development and improvements to the access from Spring Street.

After last week’s meeting with Town Manager Tom Hall and Town Planner Dan Bacon, store officials hired architect Andy Highland of Port City Architecture. Though Wal-Mart and Lowe’s both had their own in-house architects, Hyland was overall design architect for the Scarborough Gallery project.

Hyland said he is already working on ideas to break up the 1992 structure’s facade by layering with cornices to give height and depth, and opening up sections of pavement next to the building to plant greenery. He will most likely introduce brick to some areas, and may even include some windows. Most of the upgrades would be focused on the entrance and repeated at the ends of the building, he said, instead of spreading it over the entire facade.

Though he said there’s only so much that can be done to dress up an old building, Hyland added Marden’s could potentially make the project more budget friendly and the total property more attractive by eventually building on a small, undeveloped piece of the property.

“We’ll do our thing on the (old Wal-Mart) building here,” he said, “and in the future, (Marden’s) could upgrade it more if we did (a new) building up really nice.”

Hyland said the additional building could include a dry cleaner or bank. Because brick is less expensive to use on a new building than on a retrofit, the new building could be designed to the standards of the Scarborough Gallery.

Though Bacon said Wednesday that Gallery developers, KGI, installed the stub for a curb cut to make a small additional building possible, he said nothing was confirmed.

“They could do that as long as there was enough area for those uses and also the Marden’s use,” he said.

While the Planning Board seemed amenable to phasing-in visual upgrades and waiting before requiring the right turn lane from Payne Road, Chairman Allan Paul said he would want a performance guarantee in place for the turn lane as a condition of approval, a requirement Bacon said he recommended, too.

Though he said he didn’t believe Wal-Mart’s omission of the site plan review and design standards requirements was deliberate, LePage said Marden’s would be going back to Wal-Mart to try to work out a financial arrangement to make the performance guarantee happen.

“The way we look at it is that’s something we didn’t know about,” he said.

During public comments at Monday’s meeting, two women who are members of a large statewide quilting group spoke in support of Marden’s. Judy Clough, of Ottawa Woods Road, commended the retailer for its prices on fabrics that enable the group to make more quilts for charitable causes.

And Betsy Tibbets of South Portland said they were hoping a new Marden’s in Scarborough would carry the fabric they now have to buy in Sanford.

“If we go to another place, we spend our money in another town,” Tibbets said.

LePage was delighted by the women’s comments. When asked Tuesday if Marden’s plans to sell fabric in Scarborough, he said, “Yes, absolutely. If we weren’t before, we will now. With all their support you can be absolutely sure there is no way we would not put fabric in there and we thank them very much.”

Peggy Roberts can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or